This was definitely supposed to be a Kate and Lanie chapter but uh, well, it turned into this. This was one of those instances where the characters just kind of took over and went somewhere interesting so I just went with it! I really hope you enjoy this one. Small amount of non-fluff, hopefully balanced out appropriately by a heaping helping. I really have to say a thank you to Christie who really pushed me to make this what it is! You are the best and thanks for challenging me to make this right. It is far better for having your input! As always, thank you all so much for the reviews and alerts. I appreciate every single one! I'm leaving this complete just in case, but there will most likely be more. Thanks for reading and I'd love to know what you think!
"Just so you know, I have two meetings in the morning with Black Pawn. I should be back by the afternoon if a case comes up."
The steam from the shower clouds the room as Castle leans against the counter, methodically swiping the razor down his face.
A muffled voice comes from the shower. "What?"
He taps the razor on the side of the sink, the cream hitting the porcelain with a satisfying plop. He raises his voice a little. "Two meetings. In the morning."
"Gah. Can you just wait till I'm out? I can't hear you in here, Castle."
With a half-shaven face, he walks closer to the shower, leaning against the glass door. "I have two meetings in the morning but I'll be back in the afternoon."
"Well I'm having breakfast with Lanie anyway."
"Oh? What's the occasion?"
"We don't need an occasion. Just catching up. We haven't had much time to talk since you and I've gotten together." At his silence, she huffs. "Can we talk about this in a second? I'm almost done in here."
He raises his voice again, matching her tone. "Sure, okay."
He walks back to the sink and runs the water once more. Picking up the razor, he continues his task.
As promised, the shower shuts off a few seconds later and her voice cuts through the bathroom once more. "Can you hand me a towel?"
He moves to the linen closet mindlessly and grabs a towel returning to the shower. "So, do you girls talk really about everything?"
She laughs as he passes a towel to her outstretched hand and heads back to resume his shaving.
She exits the shower wiping her face and wrapping her hair up in it. "Hmm, we do talk about a lot." She passes him and snaps the waistband of his boxers.
He feigns hurt. "Ouch."
She smirks and grabs another towel from the closet and wraps her body in it. She teases him with a smile. "She's gonna want to know details."
He raises his eyebrows. "Details?"
She grins. "Oh yeah. Lots and lots of details."
He scoffs. "You're going to tell Lanie juicy details about our love life? I don't think so."
She opens her mouth in protest. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"I just mean, I know you. You can tease me all you want but I know how private you are. There's no way you're going to openly share with her these 'juicy details' you speak of. That's much more my forte."
She smiles. "Oh, you'd be surprised Mr. Castle." She thinks on that for a minute and her grin drops. "Wait a second, you better not be giving people juicy details about our love life."
He laughs. "So what? You can do it but I'm not allowed?"
"I'm only talking about Lanie and we're women. It's what we do."
"Men do it too." He raises his eyebrows, knowing he's won before he even finishes his thought. He pauses to get a good look at her face as he continues, teasing. "Plus, it's only Ryan and Esposito."
She opens her mouth in protest, horror sweeping down her face. "Richard Castle – I swear to God if you-"
He laughs cutting her off. "Look at you. You're such a hypocrite."
She glares. She can deal with the name calling once she's cleared this up. "You're joking right? Please just say you're joking. Those two are like my brothers and that's just all sorts of wrong."
"It's bro-code, I can't say."
"Bro-code?" she says horrified. "Oh my god, you have been talking to Esposito." She throws her face in her hands embarrassed.
"What, I can't say 'bro-code'? I'll have you know, I'm very hip."
"I hate to break it to you but if you have to tell people you're hip, you aren't. Sorry, Babe."
He drops the razor down from his face in disbelief. "You don't think I'm hip?"
"I think you are many things, but hip is not one of them."
He scoffs and meets her eyes in the mirror. "The boys thought I was pretty hip when I told them about that thing we did-"
Her smile drops. "Castle. Seriously. Tell me you're joking."
"You may see the boys as your brothers, but let me tell you, the feeling is definitely not mutual."
She grabs his ear and twists. "Oww-ow-ow! I'm joking, I'm joking. Geez, woman." She releases with satisfied smile. His hand comes up to rubs his ear, face distorted in pain. "That was just mean."
"Yeah well, you deserved it."
He rubs his ear some more. "Now my ear is going to be bright pink for my meetings tomorrow," he pouts. "I may be forced to report you for domestic abuse."
"You are such a baby. I barely even twisted it."
"Yeah well, it hurts."
"Do not talk about us with Ryan and Esposito."
"Message received. Trust me."
She walks up to examine his ear. He winces when she gently takes it, inspecting. "Oh relax. I'm just looking at it." She rubs her fingers down the outside gingerly. "It looks fine. You're being a drama-queen." His pout doesn't let up. She leans in and kisses his ear. "Better?"
He nods, frown slowly turning into a smile. He tries to play it up, pushing his lower lip into an exaggerated pout. "A little." He turns to her and she kisses his lips with a smirk.
"Baby." His smile grows broader. She rolls her eyes and turns towards the mirror, watching as he resumes his shaving. "I'll just tell Lanie enough to satisfy her curiosity. I'll keep the real juicy details between us."
"Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. I never objected to the details thing. You do your girl talk however you wish. If she wants details, then by all means, give the lady details." He swings his hip out to knock hers teasingly.
She shakes her head, grinning. "You're a pig."
"I just wish I had a tape recorder to hear all the salacious gossip myself."
"You've lived it. Why do you need to hear about it?"
"Somehow coming from your mouth makes it all the more sexy."
"Oh yeah? You like that?"
He goes off somewhere in his head, imagining. "Oh yeah."
She shakes her head, with narrow eyes. "You realize we're going to be talking about you, not me, right?"
"Not in my head."
She tries to goad him. "Endurance, size, frequency."
He nods. "I've got nothing to hide."
She grins evilly. "Comparison to past lovers."
He pauses - narrows his eyes. "Not loving that one."
She keeps going. "New lover's sexual history."
That stops him in his tracks. Oh, and the look on his face makes her want to take it back immediately.
The awkward silence in the bathroom stretches far too long for her heart rate to remain normal. She's not sure how to most effectively remove her foot from her mouth. She grasps his arm tightly like she's afraid he's going to walk out.
He twists his mouth and she can feel his muscles tensing in his arms. The words just fall from her mouth now, hoping one will stick and make the hurt on his face go away. "I'm sorry. I went too far. I wouldn't do that."
He tries to shrug it off. Shrug her off. "No, it's okay. It's no big deal. You can tell her what you want."
Except she can see clearly that it is a big deal, and it's on the tip of her tongue as to why but she can't place it. Her head races with possibilities. He's never been shy about his days as a playboy, so it can't be that. Which really only leaves – oh man, she's an idiot.
"Your marriage." It's out of her mouth before she can stop it. She grimaces as he pulls away from her.
Oh, he's angry, turning towards her grabbing the side of the counter for balance. He looks like she just punched him in the gut - all mad and hurt and damn, vulnerable. "You're going to talk to Lanie about my marriage? Why the hell would you do that?"
Uh, bingo. Panic swells in her chest. "No Castle, that's not what I meant. I was putting the pieces together. Figuring it out-"
"Interrogating me? Trying to figure out how to hurt me?" he ask incredulously. He wipes his face with a towel and slams it back onto the counter.
"No. Not at all. Damn-it Castle, I was just -"
"Joking? Jesus, Kate. Not funny. Really, really not funny."
"I wasn't joking. I was trying to figure out why the hell you got so serious on me."
He takes a deep breath a wipes his hand down his face, recovering. "Look, I'm really tired. Let's just go to bed."
She realizes she's still just wearing a towel and pulls it closer together. "No. I wanna talk about this."
"Well I don't. You figured it out. Found my achilles heel. There's nothing else to talk about."
She frowns. "I wasn't trying to do that."
His eyes flash and she takes a step back. "That's exactly what you were trying to do and I played right into it. Great work, Detective." The biting words leave her a little breathless as he stalks out of the bathroom.
She lowers her head, defeated. "Shit."
She drops the towel slowly, feeling pretty damn pathetic. Mainly because he's right, but she never thought it would - well, no she didn't think at all. That was the problem. She throws on a shirt, watching in the mirror as he gets into bed silently, turning his back to her side of the bed. She shakes her head at her own stupidity and squeezes her eyes shut in annoyance.
Of all the things to be insecure about, Richard Castle hangs onto the fact that he was cheated on fifteen years ago. It makes sense, she guesses. He truly is a romantic at heart and his wife, someone he took vows with, mother of his child, had cheated on him. Pretty nonchalantly too, by his accounts. So it's not totally a surprise that he reacted the way he did. Clearly this was something he didn't tell many people. She recalls the nervousness and anxiety in his eyes, his body, when he told her. How he tried to take some of the blame. Tried to shield her from the thoughts that maybe, he just wasn't enough.
Which of course is ridiculous. He is everything to her. More than enough. After two failed marriages, the man that exudes endless amounts of self-esteem, may just be a little more wounded than she's ever thought. And now she's gone and made him think she's going to use this information against him. It makes her heart sink just thinking about it. How callous he must think she is. Another look in the mirror and she's overcome with too many things she wants to say to him.
She turns on the water, finishing getting ready for sleep. Using the time to configure the words and emotions running through her. Figuring how to make things right with him - for him. Her eyes keep drifting back to him in the mirror and each time, she frowns, overcome with guilt.
Finally, she squares her shoulders and heads into the bedroom. He doesn't move from his position, but she knows he's not asleep. She gets into bed and turns towards his back.
She's not sure she's ever heard such silence in his bedroom. The uneasiness creeps into her heart and rests there painfully. She breaks the quiet softly. "You're right and I'm sorry." She sighs and places her palm flat against his back. "I was digging for a reaction from you and I just wasn't thinking." No reaction from him other than a shaky breath she can feel with her hand.
"For the record, I don't have, nor did I ever have, any intention of telling anyone about what happened in your marriage. I wouldn't do that. Girlfriend-code is way stronger than any other code there is when it comes to that stuff. That's between you and me, no matter what." She takes another breath, and basks in the lightness slowly overtaking her with each word.
"I don't want to hurt you. Ever. That's the last thing I want to do. I hope you know that. And if you don't, you should. I care about you a lot." Her chest feels light and the words come start coming up her throat giving her this insane feeling of euphoria and she can't stop them and doesn't want to. "I lo-"
He interrupts her suddenly. "Kate."
Her voice is small. Surprised. "Yeah?"
"Don't do that."
She's caught off-guard because she was so very close and the last thing she expected was for him to rip the rug from underneath her feet. Now she just wants to cry. Euphoria long forgotten. "Do what?"
"Say that to make things better. I'm sorry too. I overreacted. Let's just leave it at that."
Her cheeks flare in embarrassment. "Oh."
He takes a deep breath. "God, I'm sorry. Just don't."
Suddenly she feels so close to tears and so far from him. She removes her hand, unsure of how they got here. "Okay. You don't want me to, I won't."
She squeezes her eyes, holding everything back. Tears. Words. Assurances. She has no idea what to do next.
She rolls away from him, onto her back, and the breath she takes sounds like a sob and damn-it, she knows he heard that. Her cheeks flare even brighter, tears suddenly blurring her vision, and she sits up suddenly, throwing her legs over the edge of the bed, desperate to escape to the bathroom before they fall.
Her momentum is thwarted as she's pulled back suddenly and falls back to the bed hard.
"Castle, let me go."
She's lying flat on her back, eyes closed, and she feels the warm tracks of tears racing down both sides of her face to the pillow below. She's so embarrassed and raises her hands to try and cover her face. Finds one firmly enclosed in his and not going anywhere. Takes the other to cover her eyes childishly.
"This isn't fair," she lets out, horrified at the sob that comes with it.
And he's still so silent but she can feel his other hand coming up trying to gently pry hers away from her face.
"Please, just let me cry in peace. God, Castle. Leave me alone."
At this, she feels his hand fall away and his forehead fall to her arm, defeated. "I'm sorry," he mumbles. "God, I'm sorry. I don't want you to cry at all." He lets out a warm breath, lips finding the skin of her arm. Kissing where his mouth can reach. Words soft, trying to coax her down. "I don't want you to say it just to make me feel better. I didn't want to hear it like that."
"If you think that's what I was trying to do," she says, voice fighting for normalcy, "Then you don't know me at all." She tugs on her hand, still encased in his. "Please, just let me up. I need to go to the bathroom."
With the words, they both calm and he leaves one last kiss on her arm before releasing her hand. "I'm such an ass."
She's free to go, but doesn't move from the bed. Hand still covering her face, she sniffles and takes a deep breath. Feels him next to her.
When he sees she not moving, his hand goes up to her cheek, brushing away the drying tears. "This is terrible, Kate. Please look at me."
She lets out a shaky breath at the sound of his voice - so desperate. She has no choice but to oblige. She slowly lowers her hand, sweeping off as many tears as she can as she goes.
She finds her voice easier than she thought she'd be able to. "I'm sorry." He frowns but before he can say anything she continues. "I had this whole speech planned, but saying-" She stumbles on the word she's now pretty sure she's even more scarred from saying than before. (Surprised to find that's even possible.) This realization shows on his face as well and he looks like he wants to kick his own ass. She continues on quickly. "That - what I was going to say. It wasn't part of it. You're right, I shouldn't have brought it up now."
He groans. "No, I wasn't right. I was wrong. Very wrong. I'm an ass. I was feeling sorry for myself and hated to think that you were too."
"I shouldn't say it when I'm trying to get you un-mad at me." She replays the words and quickly follows up. "Which wasn't why I said it. I mean it -" She groans and covers her face again. "Nevermind."
He quickly responds. "I mean it too."
She laughs sadly. "This is pathetic. I'm so bad at this."
"I'm bad at it too."
She sighs. "I guess we can just be bad together."
He narrows his eyes with a smile. "Oh yeah, we can."
She lets out a laugh. A smile. His face lightens immediately, clearly happy to see it.
The negativity seems to leave the room almost as quickly as it had appeared. He leans beside her, resting his weight on his elbow, still sweeping at tears on her face that have long since vanished. Hand cradling her face gently. Too many apologies had already been thrown around for the night so they are both left without words. Studying each other silently. He brings his forehead down to rest on hers, leaning forward to give her a sweet kiss. Deep in both its physicality and the emotions behind it, she curls her hands into his shirt, body melding into his almost desperately. She gives as good as she gets, pulling him closer and opening herself up to him. She finds herself almost crying again by the force of it. He hums and she feels the vibration down to her toes. He slowly pulls back, going in once more, and then, once again. He finally leans back with a soft smile, playfully grabbing her lip one last time before completely disengaging their mouths.
She watches his face, her hand now mirroring his on her own face. Her thumb trailing along his smooth cheek. A moment passes between them and she eases into this new place they've traveled to. "She was an idiot, you know."
A true testament to how far this night had gotten away from them both. "Meredith."
He opens his mouth to object, but she slides her hand down to cover it before he can get a word out. "Just let me tell you all the ways in which you are so very wrong about what she did means."
His muffled voice comes from beneath her hand. "You don't have to."
"I want to." She slides her hand around to the side of his head, fingers sliding through his hair. "It wasn't your brain – you are one of the smartest men I know." Slides her hand down to his heart. "It wasn't your heart – you love so fully." His eyes soften at that. She slides her hand to his hip. "It wasn't physical – those past lovers we talked about earlier, none could hold a candle to you." He grins proudly, watching her with adoration. Underneath her eyelashes she gives one of her most flirtatious looks. "You're such a stud." She slides her hand around and gives his ass a quick squeeze.
He groans. "Woman."
She smiles. "And that's what I'm going to tell Lanie tomorrow. Mainly because it's true, but also because I can't wait to brag about what a great boyfriend you really are."
He grins and leans in, kissing her soundly on the mouth. "You really think I'm a stud?"
She laughs, stroking the side of his face. "Of course that's the part that sticks." He grins. "All I'm saying is that if she was unsatisfied with you, she would have been unsatisfied with anyone."
He smiles warmly and kisses her gently. "You didn't have to say all that but I do appreciate it."
She takes a deep breath, knowing there's one last thing she wants to add. Needs to add. "And I want you to know that I would never cheat on you."
His eyes raise to hers quickly. Smile slipping off his face. "I know, Kate. God, I never even thought that."
"Of course I never thought that. That's not what this is about."
"I know, I just wanted to put it out there."
He pulls her into him, dropping a kiss to her forehead as she comes into his embrace.
She presses a kiss onto his neck. "I don't want you to ever have to worry about it."
"God, woman. You're going to kill me tonight."
She nips playfully at his neck. "I'll come over tomorrow after breakfast? Replay my conversation with Lanie for you. I hear you'd very much enjoy that."
He growls. "You going to tell me all the dirty little details?"
"Every last one. They'll even make you blush."
She smiles. "I'll see you in the afternoon?"
"I'll be the one wearing the 'stud' tee shirt."
She laughs, fighting her heavy eyes.
She nods. "It's been a long night."
"Yeah. Let's get some sleep then." He yawns and she laughs.
"Stay like this?" She's curled into his chest, legs intertwined. He's wrapped around her, over her, completely.
"Couldn't move me if you wanted to."
She hums her approval. "Good luck in your meetings tomorrow."
He presses a kiss to the top of her head and she can feel his chest expand below her. "I know I ruined it earlier but-" He pauses, hesitating, and then drops another kiss to her head. "I can't take it. I need to say this and-"
She interrupts him. "I love you, Castle." It comes out so easily that she's kind of amazed. Proud. Full of something that she's not really felt before.
He lets out a deep breath, pulling her tighter into his embrace. "I love you too, Kate."
She grins against him. "Goodnight."
He sighs happily and replies softly, "Goodnight."